Paul’s Anxiety

Busted! Found out! Tripped up by his own words. If CNN were around then they’d be playing the sound bite over and over again. And, at the bottom of the screen the ticker tape banner would scroll from right to left:

. . . Apostle Paul, who said, “Be anxious for nothing,” admits he suffers from daily anxiety . . .

Scandalous!

Meditating on 2Corinthians 11 this morning. Particularly the section where Paul allows himself to be drawn into comparing himself with those who were messing with the church at Corinth as self-acclaimed “super-apostles” (v. 5). And in his boasting, Paul not only matches his credentials against their proclaimed pedigrees (v.21b-22), but also presents “far greater labors” (v.23) he’s endured for the sake of the gospel.

More imprisonments. Countless beatings. Dangerous missionary journeys. Hardship, insomnia, hunger, and thirst. Paul lays out the list (v.23-27). And then caps it off with the “CNN sound bite.”

And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

(2Corinthians 11:28 ESV)

Paul, who exhorted the church at Philippi to be anxious for nothing but to always pray (Php. 4:6), now tells the church at Corinth that he is constantly anxious and feels the pressure every day. And that the weight of these cares was comparable to all the other things he had suffered as a steward of the gospel. Worthy of the list of Paul’s “greater labors” was the constant, internal “crowding upon me” concern for all the churches God had established through Paul’s ministry.

So what drives the guy who knows we should be anxious for nothing to experience daily anxiety?

For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

(2Corinthians 11:2-3 ESV)

Paul was concerned that the church of Corinth would be “led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” So, if this was worthy of Paul breaking his “no anxiety” rule, how much should we also care about this ourselves?

A sincere and pure devotion to Jesus. Free from pretense and hypocrisy. Singularly focused. Open, honest. Not self-seeking. Wholly desiring Him who “loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to Himself in splendor” (Eph. 5:25b-27a). It’s worth caring about, says Paul. Worth caring about a lot!

Often, the conversation had with those I’ve been staying connected with over these past weeks of self-isolation has been about the opportunity for the church to come through this pandemic different than when she entered it. And that, even as we anticipate the economic aftershocks to come and the marathon before us, through it God would continue His work of preparing a pure bride for His Son.

A good thing to be anxious about? Apparently.

A good thing to be praying about? Definitely.

By His grace. For His glory.

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